New Delhi: Indicating the use of big money in the recently-concluded Bihar assembly elections, a Right to Information query has revealed that a total of 279 bonds of Rs 1 crore were sold during the sale period from October 19 to 28. Also, the data obtained showed that as many as 130 of these bonds were sold in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. Incidentally, there was a strong connection between the Bihar polls and Mumbai as former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnawis was nominated by the BJP as its poll-in-charge in the state.
‘Electoral bond scheme is opaque’
Transparency activists have long claimed that the electoral bonds scheme is opaque and potentially promotes the circulation of black money. Before every assembly election, the Centre opens the sale of electoral bonds for 10 days.
The electoral bonds scheme was notified on January 2, 2018. It provided for purchase of electoral bonds by any person, who is a citizen of India or a company/trust that is incorporated or established in India. The scheme was meant to fund political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and which had secured not less than 1% of votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the state.
Though the scheme provided that electoral bonds could only be encashed by an eligible political party through a bank account with an authorised bank, rights activists have raised questions regarding why it did not have a provision to make public the names of the donors.
BJP has been biggest beneficiary of scheme
An analysis of electoral bonds earlier this year had revealed that bonds worth more than Rs 6,000 crore had been raised by political parties through the scheme and the BJP was the biggest beneficiary.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls too, the BJP had raised Rs 2,410 crore from electoral bonds and prior to that it was receiving nearly 95% of the money that was raised by political parties through the scheme.
However, the State Bank of India, which has been given the right to issue these bonds, has all along refused to divulge the names of those who purchased the electoral bonds under the RTI Act. Incidentally, this refusal pertains to all cases of donations of Rs 1 crore or more.
Most bonds sold in Rs 1 crore denomination
This time, an RTI application was filed by activist Commodore Lokesh K. Batra (Retd.) with the SBI seeking details of the “branch-wise and denomination-wise” information about the electoral bonds sold during Phase 14.
In its response, the SBI submitted that electoral bonds worth Rs 282.29 crore were sold during the period. Of these a vast majority, 279, were of Rs 1 crore denomination each. While 130 of these bonds were sold in Mumbai, 60 were sold in the Chennai branch, 35 in Kolkata, 20 in Hyderabad, 17 in Bhubaneswar, and 11 in the New Delhi main branch.
Apart from bonds of Rs 1 crore denomination, 32 bonds of Rs 10 lakh each were sold. Their sale took place in four cities only – Kolkata (10 bonds) and New Delhi main branch (9 bonds), Patna (8 bonds) and Gandhinagar (5 bonds). The New Delhi main branch also recorded the sale of nine bonds of Rs 1 lakh denomination each. One bond worth Rs 1,000 was also sold in New Delhi.
Majority were redeemed in Hyderabad, Chennai, Bhubaneswar
Another query filed by Batra asked where these bonds were redeemed. The reply revealed that all these bonds barring one of Rs 1,000 were encashed.
With respect to the encashment, the data revealed that that a majority of the Rs 1 crore bonds were encashed in Hyderabad (90), followed by Chennai (80), Bhubaneswar (67), New Delhi (25), Kolkata (15) and Patna (2). The Rs 10 lakh bonds were encashed in New Delhi (18), Kolkata (10) and Patna (4). All the nine Rs 1 lakh bonds were encashed in New Delhi.
The lone Rs 1,000 bond, which remained uncashed, was credited to the Prime Minister National Relief Fund on November 12.